A Plea to Disney: Rethink Your Not-So-Magic Bands

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By Sue Carr

My new commitment to greener living has me looking at things in a whole new light—both day-to-day things and larger, more momentous things. Things like family vacations to our favorite place on earth—Walt Disney World.

I want to preface what follows with the wholehearted declaration that I love Disney. My husband and I have been vacationing there since my very first trip on our honeymoon seventeen years ago (he had already been there at least a dozen times at that point). We’ve visited a total of sixteen times since then. Some people say we have a Disney problem. We don’t consider it a problem.

And so you can imagine my distress—considering both my love for Disney and my new, greener-living attitude—in experiencing firsthand their new ticketing system which seems to be the complete antithesis of green.

This new system employs what they call Magic Bands, rubbery, wristwatch-sized wristbands that hold all of your pertinent trip information. Visitors use them to gain admission to the parks, charge purchases to their hotel room accounts, unlock their resort room doors, and take advantage of the FastPass system, all by simply waving the band in front of the appropriate sensors. Sounds ingenious, right? And it is, to a point. However, the ingenuity stops when it comes to consumer waste.

You see, Disney used to do all of these same things with a credit-card-style ticket—or even paper tickets with magnetized strips on the back, in some cases. With our old “Key to the World” cards we could do all of these same things—secure fast passes, enter our hotel room, charge purchases, enter the parks—all of it using something that would fit into a wallet.

Disney may argue that the bands are keepsakes, and I imagine some folks will use them that way, but I can tell you I already have about a dozen too many rubber bracelets at my house thanks to Rainbow Loom and Lance Armstrong, so I need more rubber bracelets about as much as the Kardashians need more publicity. So, being the re-purposing mom I am, I inquired at the front desk of our hotel as to whether the bands could be reused on future trips. (I know, I know—as if we all need to hang on to rubber bracelets for years at a time, but hey, I’m trying.) In fact you can reload old bracelets with new trip information—hooray!—but only if they are reused within two years. Oh, and by the way, Disney will ship you new ones regardless. So much for saving the earth that way.

disney-photo-smThe bracelets themselves might not be horribly worse for the environment than the credit cards (I certainly can’t speak to the materials used and their impact on landfills). But then there’s the packaging. I was shocked when the desk clerk at check-in handed me two shoe box-sized boxes that housed our six Magic Bands. Yes, you read that correctly—two shoe box-sized boxes to hold a grand total of six rubber bracelets. Nothing else. And this desk clerk pulled these boxes from a cabinet that ran the length of a (I’m guesstimating) 30-yard-long registration area, and that cabinet was packed with hundreds of these boxes. And this was only one Disney resort, stocked for (I presume) one day of arrivals.

I’m going to let that all sink in for a moment.

Now I reiterate, I love Disney. I have no intention of boycotting Disney or stopping my trips to the happiest place on earth in protest (in fact, we’re already planning our next visit). But it’s up to each and every one of us to start holding major, multinational companies accountable for their actions regarding our planet. I know that Disney has done, and continues to do, many, many things to help improve the environment, both behind the scenes and through various efforts in their parks. But they can do more. And in my opinion, they should have done better here. With the quantity of elite imagineers they have on staff, surely they can devise a way to improve their processes for the sake of our environment. It is incumbent upon companies like Disney to set the standard for environmental responsibility, if for no other reason than because of their massive impact on our society. It’s time for us to hold them to that higher standard.

Disney, I love you, but I beg you to do better.

Sue Nelko Carr is a freelance writer, editor, blogger and a full-time mother, trying to live a greener life in Pittsburgh, PA.


20 thoughts on “A Plea to Disney: Rethink Your Not-So-Magic Bands”

  1. Greg says:

    Our two magic bands were mailed to us. The shoe box was packed inside another shoe box sized shipping box.

  2. Ann McDonald says:

    Dear Ms. Carr:

    I realize you are a writer, but that was a very good letter you wrote regarding the recycling of Magic Bands. Thank you for taking the time to write Disney. I do support and try in my own little way to be “green”. We all need to support the “green” effort.

    Sincerely,
    Ann

    p.s. Our trip was May 4-10, 2014 – 6 “MB” in our group.

  3. Leigh ann says:

    Omg! I just went through this process! We bought premium yearly passes may 9th, 2014 and took our trip to disney. We received our bands but didn’t sync them while there. My hubby told me we would keep these bands for the entire year and they would be synced for each reservation. Boy, was He wrong!!!! We have reservations to go again in a week so I called to sync our bands and tickets. I told the agent that’s we already had bands to re-use. She said “oh no. You get a new set of bands for each reservation that you make”. I said “wait. What?!!! Don’t you recycle these? As a yearly pass holder, we plan to go to disney A LOT! I mean A LOT. We want to get our money’s worth. I can’t reuse the ones I have?” She said “no. You will get new ones each time. But after you pick your colors for the bands you can use any set that you want each time. They will all be activated “. So, by May of 2015, I might have 10 sets of 5 bands (50 plastic bands) that cannot be recycled. But, if I color code them correctly on MyDisneyExperience.com, each reservation I will be able to match the band to my outfit! Did I say OMG yet?!!!!! And we are one family!!!! I’m sick to my stomach.

    1. Mrs. Green says:

      Thank you so much for this feedback. I don’t blame you for being sick to your stomach. Let’s get Disney on board!

  4. Pam says:

    I have tried EVERYTHING to stop the bands from coming, because we live in Florida only 3 hours away from WDW. Since September when this madness started, we’ve been on 1-4 day trips about 8 times, because we’re passholders and DVC members. Nobody there seems to be able to stop the bands from coming, even though I keep telling them no. Even if I decline to customize, there’s a box of gray ones with our names on the inside waiting for us at check-in. It’s ridiculous, and I am so angry with them for not caring enough to have an opt-out once you have a set, every 2 years. They’re cluttering up our safe, too, because for as long as you have them (and we can’t figure out how to destroy them), there is no good way to get them unlinked to annual passes, your next reservations, and your credit card!

  5. Judy says:

    If someone does a petition on this issue, that might get Disney’s attention.

  6. Ann says:

    So there is no way to get the information off of the band? if someone knows how to do that and also where I can recycle them let me know. Is there a chip that can be cut out and destroyed?

    1. Mrs. Green says:

      RISE Equipment Cycling follows Department of Defense protocols for all computers donated. They are at the corner of 22nd & Park.

  7. Tara says:

    I just googled recycle Disney Bands and it led me to this blog. I was hoping for something more helpful, but as I read all the comments I see we are not quite at the solution stage yet. Last year I went on a Disney Resort hopping excursion sort of speak, we stayed at 5 Disney resorts in 7- 8 day span. As you can imagine, each resort we visited, we received 2 new shoe boxes of bands. Way too many. My Husband and I had a blast but we should of been able to reuse the 1st set of bands we received. Needless to say we are heading back to stay at one resort in a few weeks and was going to hand them all these old bands. They should set up a recycling area, one to wipe memory from band and then a place to put them in. I guess it won’t match the decor.

    1. Mrs. Green says:

      Thank you for writing and I have to agree with you – we have a very very long way to go. I encourage you to do anything you can to have your voice be heard. We, as consumers, have so much more power than we realize. I still have to tell myself that every day.

      Love & blessings,
      Gina aka Mrs. Green

  8. Chris says:

    Split reservations can use one band. Don’t customize multiples. I agree a recycling bin is a great idea. Also reminders to guest on towel usage conservation–particularly at pools.

    1. Mrs. Green says:

      Is there any update on this?

    2. Mrs. Green says:

      I think someone starting a petition is a great idea and wish I had the time to lead the charge. MoveOn.org makes it very easy and I will help support it.

  9. Camille says:

    I, too, ran across your blog looking for a way to re-use or recycle these bands.

    We were just there last week and were told by our driver/guide while on the Kilimanjaro Safari at Animal Kingdom that one thing we could all do to prevent deforestation was to recycle electronics, because electronics contain minerals, which are mined. If we recycle our electronics, we reduce the demand for mining and thereby reduce deforestation. Deforestation is to blame for reducing the habitat of animals, particularly important for all of those endangered animals they have.

    So if I’m interpreting this correctly, not only are magic bands anti-environmental because of the waste created in their packaging and in the band itself, but they are electronic devices contributing to deforestation and the dwindling of endangered species. Our Kilimanjaro Safari driver/guide is concerned they will become extinct if we don’t recycle our electronics.

  10. LASF says:

    If you don’t customize bands before the trip and already have bands, you can decline the bands at the hotel desk. Our last trip we used bands we already had, and there was no issue using those bands for the length of our trip. I have also noticed now that in My Disney Experience I have the option to decline new bands for our upcoming spring trip.

  11. John says:

    Im pretty sure the world will survive… Its ok! No need to freak out!

    1. Mrs. Green says:

      I agree we don’t need to freak out but we do need to all find out voices to raise awareness about things that should be changed. Thanks for caring enough to write.

  12. melissa says:

    Hello
    I just came across your blog while researching how to reuse our bands for our upcoming trip. I’m not sure why people are saying you can’t reuse your band…but I contacted Disney and you can. I think the key is linking your bracelet to the “Mydisneyexperience” website. My parents are going in April and they are reusing their band.

    1. Mrs. Green says:

      Thanks Donald. And a long life for comments!

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